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Thought for the weekend: I’d rather be a missionary than a mercenary

Jeff Bezos was interviewed by his CTO Werner Vogels at the AWS: Reinvent show yesterday. I’m a big admirer of Bezos. As well as building an amazing company he has a great business brain and regularly comes up with pithy quotes and insights which help us to understand the world better. The interview was written up on wGigaOM and Techcrunch and both publications reported his money quote which I used in the headline to this post (albeit slightly adapted):

I’d pick a missionary over a mercenary every day.

He said this whilst making the point that the best businesses tackle enduring problems that their founders have a passion for solving rather than chasing the next hot thing. All sound advice.

Reading this I was reminded of a song that my kids keep singing at the moment which has the line ‘Follow your dreams, and you’ll be happy in that special way’.

A bit of passion and happiness goes a long way at a startup.

The other thing I liked was Bezos defence of having a low margin business, saying it is impossible to operate efficiently in a high margin business. Breaking that down I think he is saying that efficiency is a competitive weapon that can be wielded alongside all the others available in the market (great innovation, scale economics, proprietary content, network effects, etc.) and that companies which use all the weapons bar efficiency and maintain high margins will ultimately be vulnerable to companies that use all the weapons and are also efficient – like Amazon.